Actor-director Melanie Mayron
Melanie Mayron is probably best known for her Emmy Award-winning turn as Melissa Steadman on the late-’80s TV series Thirtysomething — the artsy single woman with the asymmetrical red hair who represented a bit of counterculture on a show about yuppies. She made her film debut in Harry and Tonto (1974) and played a noteworthy role as struggling photographer Susan Weinblatt in Girlfriends (1978). Her long acting career includes parts on classic television shows including Rhoda and The Love Boat. Though she continues to act, Mayron now works primarily as a director for television. Recent gigs include Grace and Frankie, Pretty Little Liars, The Fosters, Graves, and Jane the Virgin ,in which she also has a recurring role. She recently directed the feature film Snapshots, an intergenerational drama starring Piper Laurie and Brooke Adams. It screens at the Santa Fe Film Festival on Saturday, Feb. 10, preceded by a conversation between Mayron and Aaron Leventman, the festival programmer, and followed by a Q&A with the audience. Mayron will be honored that evening at the Santa Fe Film Festival awards ceremony for her contributions to film and television.
When Mayron, who has always identified as a feminist, first moved to Los Angeles from the East Coast in 1974, she stuffed envelopes as a volunteer at the local Equal Rights Amendment office. They gave her a pin to wear that said “59 Cents,” which was how much women then made in comparison to every dollar men earned. “I was a broke actor, so I didn’t have any money to donate to the cause of getting the ERA passed, but I did have time. I went there every afternoon,” she said.
Reflecting on her career in light of the #MeToo movement, Mayron said: “I wasn’t this beautiful actress on the rise. I was always the best friend, the supporting actress, so I didn’t encounter sexual harassment. I didn’t have that kind of attention put on me. But in terms of sexism in the business, Hollywood has always been older men paired with younger women. It’s rare to see older actresses. There’s just a few of them — Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Frances McDormand. There’s a bit of a shelf life for most actresses. You can maybe make it into your thirties, and then you’re playing doctors and lawyers for about 30 years. And then maybe in your seventies, you come back and play some good grandmother and old lady parts.”
Mayron was never content to sit around in her trailer when she was on set, so she often walked around with a camera taking pictures, or stood by the director of photography and asked questions about how movies were made. “When I worked on
Girlfriends, it was a lot of young people just out of film school, and it just seemed like everybody worked together — they had different jobs, but with the same goal of putting a particular story up on the screen.”
Some of her co-stars on Thirtysomething directed episodes of the series, so Mayron threw her hat in the ring, too. “The beginning of the third season, they gave me an episode, and then one at the beginning of season four as well,” she said. After the show was